Although Las Vegas is well known for its bright lights and gambling, the city has also played a huge role in the history of boxing. Many famous venues have hosted boxing events over the years, and people come from all over the world to place bets on fights. Also, many world-class fighters live and train in the city. Las Vegas has hosted some legendary matches and continues to do so to this day. There’s no doubt that boxing has helped to shape what the city has become.
Vegas Boxing History
Las Vegas has seen its fair share of great fights over the years. In February of 1978, Muhammad Ali lost the heavyweight title to Leon Spinks by a split decision. Another legendary fight held in Las Vegas occurred between Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987. Leonard ended up winning by points, but Hagler vehemently disagreed with the decision and never returned to the sport.
One of the most bizarre fights ever seen in Las Vegas was between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in the famous “ear” incident. It was a highly anticipated match and broke all of the previous pay-per-view records. The fight, however, ended up being remembered for the violent attack against Holyfield, when Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear.
You can’t talk about boxing and Las Vegas without mentioning Johnny Tocco. He came to Las Vegas in 1953 to see a match between Nino Valdez and Archie Moore and never left. He ended up opening the now-famous Ringside Gym and trained many fighters who went on to win championships. Some of the people Tocco helped to train include Sonny Liston, Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, and Michael Dokes.
Johnny was known for his rough exterior, but beneath the surface was a kind man who cared for the well being of his fighters. There was no beating around the bush with Johnny, and he made sure to tell the boxers what they needed to hear. If you needed a corner man for your next fight, you went to Tocco. Johnny had a true passion for the sport, and he ran the Ringside Gym until he passed away in 1997.
One of the reasons that Las Vegas is the boxing capital of the world is that fans get an unforgettable experience when they go to a fight. You have the bright lights of the casinos and hotels, money is on the line from people placing bets at the sports books, and the arenas are filled with energy and anticipation.
MGM GRAND – In recent times, the MGM Grand has become the top spot in Las Vegas for big matches. The Garden Arena is massive and seats close to 17,000 people. Some famous fights that have been hosted here include Moorer vs. Foreman, Tyson vs. Holyfield, and de la Hoya vs. Mayweather, Jr.
CASESARS PALACE – One of original venues, it no longer holds as many big championship matches as MGM Grand, but it still continues to host fights in the Roman Plaza Amphitheater. In the past, famous matches took place between Holmes and Ali, Holyfield and Bowe, and Leonard and Hearns.
MANDALAY BAY – This newer hotel casino is another venue that continues to host big fights. The arena that holds the matches is huge, with seating for about 12,000. Fighters who have appeared here include de la Hoya, Vargas, and Trinidad. Some fights have grossed ticket sales among the highest in the history of Nevada.
When you look at the history, atmosphere, venues, and boxing enthusiasts, it’s easy to see why Las Vegas is the boxing capital of the world. That tradition remains strong in the city and most likely will continue long in the future.